LAKEWOOD, Colo. (KDVR) – With a wag, a paw or a snuggle, two certified therapy dogs help the crews at West Metro Fire Rescue get through the tough calls.
“There’s no doubt a dog recognizes when you’re struggling and they’ll sit down and snuggle with you. They know when you’re happy and they wag their tail and they are happy with you,” said West Metro Station 3 Captain Reed Norwood. “They just have a sense I think, of people and what they’re going through and they’re just really good at responding to that.”
Norwood owns a 3-year-old Irish Setter named Remmey. Along with greeting firefighters as they return from a call, Remmey is a family dog and a trained bird dog. She lives at the station when Norwood is on duty.
Captain, owned by firefighter and paramedic Victoria DiGiannantonio, was the first therapy dog with the department. The 2-year-old Goldendoodle lives at West Metro Station 1 when DiGiannantonio is on duty.
DiGiannantonio initiated the therapy dog program.
“My family has a nonprofit, they do animal rescue, rehabilitation, and a lot of therapy with horses, farm animals, some dogs and I’ve seen first hand the value in just being around animals, being around dogs,” said DiGiannantonio.
Everyday duties for Captain consist of helping with ambulance rig checks, hanging out, claiming a good spot on the recliner, sitting near the table for meals and waiting at the top of the stairs when the crew returns from calls.
Therapy dogs help crew members diffuse and decompress after responding to tough situations by having a calming influence at a very hectic workplace.
Each dog has to be trained, certified and have the ability to adapt to the station surroundings. No breed restrictions are in place.
The goal for the department is to have three dogs on every shift at each station.